Associate Professor Jo James
Associate Professor Jo James' favourite organ is the placenta. This multi-talented organ acts as a life support system for every one of us during our time in utero by delivering nutrients and oxygen that are essential for growth.
Associate Professor Jo James' favourite organ is the placenta. This multi-talented organ acts as a life support system for every one of us during our time in utero by delivering nutrients and oxygen that are essential for growth. Its ability to do this successfully at the end of pregnancy, when fetal demand is greatest, is dependent on successful placental development in early pregnancy. A poorly functioning placenta is thought to be a major component of the disease process in many pregnancy disorders including preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction (FGR) and recurrent miscarriage. Together, these disorders affect 1 in 10 pregnancies. However, despite our absolute reliance on the placenta, we do not understand the basic biological processes that underpin placental formation, or why these may fail.
A/P James leads a research group focussed on the use of placental stem cells the placenta is built from (both trophoblast and villous core progenitors) to understand how changes in cell differentiation and function underpin poor placental growth and function. She also co-leads the Pregnancy Modelling Group (with A/P Alys Clark, Auckland Bioengineering Institute), which combines in vitro experiments, in vivo imaging data and in silico modelling approaches to develop ‘virtual pregnancy’ models to better understand how the anatomical differences seen in fetal growth restriction impact how blood flows to, around, and within the placenta, which in turn can affect how nutrients and oxygen reach baby. She is working to use this understanding to help improve our ability to predict which pregnancies are at risk of fetal growth restriction, and identify ways to therapeutically improve placental function in at risk pregnancies.
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